Friday, 15 March 2019

The Cambridge Companion to Boxing - Now Published in the United States

The cover of the Cambridge Companion to Boxing features Jack Johnson.

The Cambridge Companion to Boxing has now being published in the United Kingdom (January 24) and the United States (March 14) by Cambridge University Press. I have contributed the following chapters:

8. “The Africans: Boxing and Africa”
19. “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”


While humans have used their hands to engage in combat since the dawn of man, boxing originated in Ancient Greece as an Olympic event. It is one of the most popular, controversial and misunderstood sports in the world. For its advocates, it is a heroic expression of unfettered individualism. For its critics, it is a depraved and ruthless physical and commercial exploitation of mostly poor young men. This Companion offers engaging and informative essays about the social impact and historical importance of the sport, listing all the important events and personalities. Essays examine topics such as women in boxing, boxing and the rise of television, boxing in Africa, boxing and literature, and boxing and Hollywood films. A unique book for scholars and fans alike, this Companion explores the sport from its inception in Ancient Greece to the death of its most celebrated figure, Muhammad Ali.


Gerald Early, Professor of English and African-American Studies at Washington University, St. Louis. He has written about boxing since the early 1980s. His book, the Culture of Bruising (1994) won the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He also edited the The Muhammad Ali Reader (1998) and Body Language: Writers (1998). His essays have appeared several times in the Best American Essays series.


Byron J. Nakamura, Elliot J. Gorn, Adam Chill, Louis Moore, Colleen Aycock, Carlo Rotella, Troy Rondinone, Adeyinka Makinde, Benita Heiskanen, Cathy van Ingen, Steven A, Reiss, Tony Gee, Randy Roberts, Wil Haygood, Lewis Erenberg, Michael Ezra, Mark Scott, Kasia Boddy, Scott D. Emmer, Leger Grindon, Rebecca Wanzo, Benjamin Cawthra, Rosalind Early, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Gerald Early.

Table of Contents

1. "Boxing in the Ancient World" by Byron J. Nakaruma
2. "The Bare-Knuckle Era" by Elliot J. Gorn
3. "Jem Mace and the Making of Modern Boxing" by Adam Chill
4.  "Race and Boxing in the Nineteenth Century" by Louis Moore
5. "Joe Gans and his Contemporaries: The Contest for Supremacy in the Queensberry Realm" by Colleen Aycock
6. "Dempsey-Tunney, Tunney-Greb, and the 1920s" by Carlo Rotella
7. "Prime Time and Crime Time: Boxing in the 1950s" by Troy Rondinone
8. "The Africans: Boxing and Africa" by Adeyinka Makinde
9. "A Century of Fighting Latinos: From the Margins to the Mainstream" by Benita Heiskanen
10. "Women’s Boxing: Bout Time" by Cathy van Ingen
11. "Jews in Twentieth-Century Boxing" by Steven A. Reiss
12. "A Surprising Dearth of Top English-born Jewish Fighters in the Bare-Knuckle Era" by Tony Gee
13. "Joe Louis: ‘You Should Have Seen Him Then’" by Randy Roberts
14. "The Furious Beauty of Sugar Ray" by Wil Haygood
15. "Echoes from the Jungle: Muhammad Ali in the Early 70s" by Lewis Erenberg
16. "The Unusable Champions: Sonny Liston (1962-1964) and Larry Holmes (1978-1985)" by Michael Ezra
17. "Emile Griffith: An Underrated Champion" by Mark Scott
18. "Pierce Egan, Boxing, and British Nationalism" by Adam Chill
19. "Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer" by Adeyinka Makinde
20. "‘Well, What was it really Like?’ George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, and the Heavyweights" by Kasia Boddy
21. "Jack London and the Great White Hopes of Boxing Literature" by Scott D. Emmer
22. "Body and Soul of the Screen Boxer" by Leger Grindon
23. "Black Slaver: Jack Johnson and the Mann Act" by Rebecca Wanzo
24. "Yesternow: Jack Johnson, Documentary Film, and the Politics of Jazz" by Benjamin Cawthra
25. "Opera for Boxers" by Rosalind Early
26. "The Voice of Boxing: A Brief History of American Broadcasting Ringside" by Colleen Aycock
27. "Ralph Wiley’s Surprising Serenity" by Shelley Fisher Fishkin
28. "Muhammad Ali, King of the Inauthentic" by Gerald Early

Book Details

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Hardback: ISBN 978-1-107-05801-9
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-107-63120-5
Price: £69.99 (Hardback)/£24.99 (Paperback)


Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Imperial Stroke of Pen: The Kamerun Campaign

The Cameroons & Nigerian Artillery during an attack on Mountain Hill Camp during the First World War. (CREDIT: The Illustrated War News, April 28th 1915).

The carving up of various regions of the world by European powers on the continents of Africa and Asia are perhaps best exemplified by the German initiated Berlin Conference (KongoKonferenz) of 1884-85 and the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement (Asia Minor Agreement) of 1916. The former came about at the time of Germany’s emergence as a colonial power, while the latter was a secret deal which enabled the creation of mutual spheres of influence in the Middle East. Less well known is the Anglo-French Picot Provisional Partition Line of 1915. This settlement has a link to the previously mentioned agreements because it was one of several agreements representing the diminution of German imperial power on the African continent -it also lost imperial outposts in east and south west Africa- and the involvement of Georges Picot who was of course a major figure in working out a division of land between the French and the British. These types of agreements often involved a great amount of arbitrariness of which the Anglo-French accord over the former German colony of Kamerun is most striking.

The Kamerun Campaign was part of the confrontation during the First World War between Britain, France and Belgium on the one hand and Germany on the other. The former nations invaded Kamerun (Cameroon) which was then a German colony, in August 1914. By February 1916, most German military and civilian personnel had fled to Rio Muni, the neutral colony of Spanish Guinea, which today forms the continental portion of Equatorial Guinea.

As was the case with the Middle Eastern theatre, Britain and France shared the spoils of war by agreeing to divide Kamerun along what was called the “Picot Provisional Partition Line” with Britain taking approximately one-fifth of the colony situated on the Nigerian border. France acquired Douala and most of the central plateau. The campaign would officially end in March 1916, but before that at a meeting on February 23 1916, Georges Picot “who knew nothing of the lands and peoples he was dividing” drew a line with a heavy pencil” which Sir Charles Strachey, the representative of the British Colonial Office, was constrained to accept.

As one of Strachey’s colleagues later observed:

“If only you had not had a pencil in your hand at the time”.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Churchill: A Conflicted Legacy

“Churchill in the House of Commons”. A charcoal drawing of Sir Winston Churchill by Gerald Scarfe capturing him in his final appearance in Parliament in July 1964.  

The figure of Winston Churchill has for long stood high among those persons considered by his countrymen to be among the greatest ever produced by England. For many, he is the embodiment of the “bulldog spirit”, a peculiar but formidable brand of tenacity that characterises British resolve and valour. His dexterous use of the English language is viewed as having conveyed both wisdom and poeticism. That his words inspired a nation and its empire to successfully resist the threat of Nazi domination is to his defenders beyond doubt. In short, in the collective imagination of a preponderance of his people, Churchill is the greatest ever Briton.

But there is dissent.

Churchill, of course, has always had his detractors. During the earlier period of his career as a politician, he earned the unenviable reputation of a political turncoat and opportunist. He was also widely perceived as a warmonger. And his personal flaws of being prone to drink and depression, as well as having a tendency towards misogyny are acknowledged even by his most ardent supporters.

It goes further. For some, the sins of Winston Churchill are innumerable: the Bengal Famine, the firestorm that consumed Dresden and the brutality meted out by colonial enforcers against the indigenous populace during the Mau Mau insurrection are often put forward as evidence of his crimes against humanity.

To critics, his racism was evident by his admission that genocide against non-whites such as the Australian aboriginals and the indigenous American nations was justifiable because white people by possessing a “higher form of culture” were doing the killing. He also admitted that the exploitation of Persian oil helped the British ruling classes live very comfortably during the 1920s.

What is more, far from hailing him as the man who did most to preserve and protect Britain from foreign conquest, some adamantly hold him to be responsible for the loss of empire and the extension of Soviet power into eastern Europe.

Those who challenge long-held assumptions about Churchill speak from different ideological perspectives: some as modern anti-racists and anti-imperialists, some as socialist pacifists, some as conservative realists and some as white identitarians. Others proclaim themselves as being fueled not by an ideological agenda but by the need to necessarily recalibrate contemporary perspectives as a result of objective historical inquiry.

Sometimes there is a coalescence of critique, albeit that there is divergence in motive and rationale. It was while writing as a humanist and self-proclaimed socialist that the actor Richard Burton in 1974 excoriated Churchill in a written piece for the New York Times as a genocidist who once threatened to wipe out every Japanese man, woman and child. Those on the extreme right, as well as new converts to white racial identity politics consider the Dresden bombings to have been a holocaust perpetrated by one white nation against another which served little end. It is from this school of thought that Churchill as the perpetually indebted servant of “Jewish interests” helped bring about an unnecessary war with Germany when both ought to have stood together against the menace posed by Soviet Bolshevism. Germany, they remind had offered a peace pact with Britain through which it could keep its empire while giving Hitler a “free hand” in eastern Europe.

But what of the argument of presentism? His defenders see Churchill as a man who is being judged according to modern standards, that his racial, gender and imperialistic attitudes were simply a reflection of the prevalent mores of the times in which he lived. There is of course a great deal of truth to this. Yet, so far as his lust for war and interventionism is concerned, his record can be set against those of his contemporaries and be seen as one which nonetheless stands apart from others.

From the time of his early adulthood to his mature years, Churchill would consistently and enthusiastically advocate the violent approach in extending British influence and in putting down the aspirations of liberty held by millions of native peoples who lived under British rule. Domestically too, he promoted the use of authoritarian methods to deal with civil disobedience.

It is clear that these less flattering traits and deeds of Churchill need airing. And they need not be part of a wider “culture war” or ideological dispute. Many of his critics will willingly admit to admiring his strength of character and strategic vision, a far cry from the lightweight politicians who permeate the national and international stage today. Addressing this point, a few years ago the veteran journalist Robert Fisk reminded an interviewer that in 1941, prior to the Wehrmacht’s invasion of the Soviet Union, when Britain was still the sole European nation fighting Nazi Germany and still under the threat of German occupation, Churchill set up a government committee to organise the post-war occupation of Germany.

Oliver Cromwell arguably had a greater personal impact on the evolution of Britain; a span encompassing the political, military and social spheres. His triumph over the King against whom he sanctioned an act of regicide provided the basis of Parliamentary sovereignty which forms the dominant pillar of Britain’s constitutional system. A man with limited or no actual military experience prior to the English Civil War, he rose up the ranks to become a general who contributed to key victories against the monarch, transforming a rag-tag band of peasants into the formidable New Model Army. He also brought about an unprecedented measure of religious liberty to the country. Yet, to many Britons, Churchill’s perceived role in salvaging a nation imperilled by Nazi conquest automatically trumps the achievement of any Briton before or after.

There is a logic to this thinking which continues to assure Churchill’s place among the pantheon of Great Britons. But to downplay or otherwise dismiss factual evidence of the man’s flaws does a great disservice to the need to constantly subject history and its main players to warranted scrutiny. It should not be a question of marking Churchill’s legacy as being solely that of a racist and imperialist villain on the one hand or an awe inspiring and decisive war-time leader on the other.

Both views are true and need not obviate the other.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Boxing and Pan-Africanism: Kwame Nkrumah meets Roy Ankrah

Roy Ankrah (Left) the featherweight champion of the British Empire with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, leader of the independence movement of the Gold Coast which later became Ghana. (CREDIT: James Barnor)

African boxing and boxers merged into the consciousness of the different societies fighting for liberation from colonial control and as such the careers of the most successful ones became entwined with the nationalist sentiments of the day as the connection between Roy Ankrah’s British Empire title win and Kwame Nkrumah’s release from British detention showed.

- Excerpt from “The Africans: Boxing and Africa” by Adeyinka Makinde, Chapter 8 of the Cambridge Companion to Boxing.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is the author of Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal and Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula. He is also a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Jose Torres (1965): A Film by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Jose Torres with his mentor Cus D’Amato, the man he credited with creating him as a fighter

Original Title: Jose Torres II
Year: 1965
Running Time: 58 min
Country: Japan
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Music: Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography: Marvin E. Newman (B&W)
Cast: Jose Torres, Cus D’Amato
Producer: Teshigahara Productions
Genre: Documentary | Biography | Boxing | Half-length Film | Sports Documentaries


This is the sequel to Jose Torres (1959), the portrayal of Puerto Rican boxer Jose Torres, who won a silver medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. We follow Torres from his training in preparation to challenge light-heavyweight champion Wilie Pestrano, to the match and Torres’ victory in 1965. The contrast between the nervous Torres before the match, filmed in painstaking detail, and the first round, filmed in one shot, is striking.

The aforementioned information is reproduced from the website of Film Affinity.

Adeyinka Makinde is a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing. One of his two contributions is Chapter 19, “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”.

Jose Torres (1959): A Film by Hiroshi Teshigahara

A young Jose Torres strikes a pose.

Original Title: Jose Torres
Year: 1959
Running Time: 25 min
Country: Japan
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Music: Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography: Hiroshi Teshigahara (B&W)
Cast: Jose Torres, Cus D’Amato
Producer: Teshigahara Productions
Genre: Documentary | Biography | Boxing | Half-length Film | Sports Documentaries


Teshigahara studied under Kamei Fumio and demonstrated his belief that documentary is a subjective creation by its director in his short film Jose Torres (1959). His subsequent documentaries and dramatic features have been stripped of all trace of the emotion and lyricism that could have accompanied the creation of such dramatically-composed works from the clearly-defined perspective of the filmmaker. The filmmaker uses his aesthetic sense to pick out fragments of reality, the recombination of which transforms abstract concepts into images. These unique qualities of Teshigahara’s filmmaking polish his subjects’ beauty further without making any concessions to commercialism, thanks perhaps in part to Teshigahara’s position as the head of the Sogetsu school of Japanese flower arrangement. Endowed with both a gift and the environment in which to express it, Teshigahara was in as sense a fortunate, pure-cultured successor to postwar avant-garde art.

The aforementioned information is reproduced from the website of Film Affinity.

Adeyinka Makinde is a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing. One of his two contributions is Chapter 19, “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”.

Jose Torres: Honoured by a Legislative Resolution of the New York State Senate on February 9th 2009

Jose Torres (1936-2009): Olympic boxer, world boxing Champion, author, activist and boxing administrator.

The following is the text of a legislative resolution passed by the New York State Senate on February 9th 2009 after the death of Jose Torres:


LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION mourning the death of Boxing Hall of Famer and Ambassador Jose Torres, distinguished citizen and devoted member of his community.

WHEREAS, It is the custom of this Legislative Body to pay tribute to citizens of the State of New York whose lifework and civic endeavor served to enhance the quality of life in their communities and the great State of New York; and

WHEREAS, Jose “Chegui” Torres, a former light-heavyweight champion who became a boxing official and a literary presence in the sport as a biographer of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, dies on Monday, January 19 2009, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, at 72; and

WHEREAS, Revered both in Spanish Harlem and in Puerto Rico, Jose Torres was one of New York’s renaissance men: world champion athlete, trend-setter, journalist and author; and

WHEREAS, Fighting professionally from 1958 to 1969, Jose Torres had a record of 41-3-1; he captured the light-heavyweight crown in March of 1965 when the referee stopped his fight with Willie Pastrano after the ninth round; after three title defenses, he lost the championship to Dick Tiger of Nigeria on a decision in December of 1966; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997; he was the chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission from 1984 to 1988, becoming the first former professional boxer and the first Latino to head the agency, which oversees boxing in the state; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres was the author of STING LIKE A BEE: THE MUHAMMAD ALI STORY (1971), AND FIRE ANE FEAR: THE INSIDE STORY OF MIKE TYSON (1989), and he wrote for THE NEW YORK POST and the New York newspaper EL DIARIO LA PRENSA; Jose Torres, a native of the Ponce, Puerto Rico area and the son of a businessman, learned to box in the Army and captured the light-middleweight silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics; he earned his first boxing paycheck serving as a sparring partner for Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957; and

WHEREAS, Early in his pro career, Jose Torres became friendly with young writers, among them Pete Hamill, who was with THE NEW YORK POST; Pete Hamill helped Jose Torres get a column in the paper, Jose wrote often on Latino community affairs; and

WHEREAS, When Jose Torres was introduced as the state commissioner in November 1984 by Governor Mario Cuomo, his guests included Cus D’Amato, his former manager; Pete Hamill; Budd Schulberg, who wrote the epilogue to the Ali biography; and Norman Mailer; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres cited Cus D’Amato as “the man who created the fighter” and Norman Mailer as “the man who created my intellectual capacity”; Jose vowed that as chairman of the athletic commission, he would promote educational opportunities for fighters “at least so they can read their contracts”; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres, a member of the athletic commission before becoming its chairman, had also been active in societal affairs, working for Paul O’Dwyer when he was the president of New York’s City Council and for Andrew Stein when he was the Manhattan borough president; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres distinguished himself in his profession by his sincere dedication and substantial contribution to the the welfare of his community; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres’ commitment to excellence, and his spirit of humanity, carried over into all fields of enterprise, including charitable and civic endeavors; and

WHEREAS, Jose Torres is survived by his wife, Ramonita; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be transmitted to the family of Jose Torres.

Adeyinka Makinde is a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing. One of his two contributions is Chapter 19, “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”.